1. What is the major issue facing Utah today and how would you deal with it?
Building a stronger economy is key to Utah's future and the key to funding a quality education for our children and our grandchildren. We must not allow this new century to begin without recognizing that economic development is critical to covering our costs going forward. Getting us there will require leadership, vision and a realistic plan. Utah's economy needs a positive new direction. If we stay on our current trajectory, we will be unable to fund education and support Utah's working families in the years ahead. We need a governor who will lead the charge in rejuvenating and expanding the state's economic base. In short, we need more high-paying jobs in our state, and we need them now.
Economic development is the critical link that will allow Utah to pay for education by raising overall revenues not by raising taxes. In conjunction with many of Utah's best and brightest private sector leaders, I have developed a plan. This is a plan to revitalize Utah's economic base and provide the long-term funding required to educate our children. The plan to revitalize Utah's economic base centers on creating an environment that will allow Utah to attract and retain good businesses. In order for businesses to choose to relocate here or remain here, our state tax codes and policy environment must be more appealing. If Utah is successful in attracting and retaining good businesses, then job growth and long-term economic prosperity will follow naturally.
In order to deliver economic development for Utah, we need a governor who is capable of working effectively with both state officials and industry leaders to create a more business-friendly environment; an atmosphere in which companies can thrive and grow. We need a governor with extensive private sector experience and contacts, who can reach out to national and international industry leaders, and attract companies (and jobs) to Utah. And finally, we need a governor who cares about the businesses that are already located here in Utah and will do what it takes to keep them here for the long haul. I do not believe the government should be in the job-creating business, but together we can improve the environment in which our state's private sector operates and thrives.
Identified below are the keys of my 10-point economic plan. When these 10 initiatives are implemented in a timely, effective and coordinated manner, they will dramatically strengthen Utah's economy for the years ahead. (1) Revamp Utah's tax structure (2) Improve the competitive environment for small- and medium-size companies (3) Recruit businesses to our state (4) Attract more capital (5) Promote growth in target industries (6) Enhance Utah's national and international image (7) Capture global opportunities for Utah Companies (8) Promote tourism (9) Energize economic development in rural communities (10) Make state government more efficient. All of these initiatives are interrelated with one another. As we generate success in one area, that success will lead to success in other areas. Historically, our economic development efforts have lacked the required coordination to deliver long-term job growth in Utah. The coordinated implementation of this comprehensive set of initiatives will provide for greater economic success and momentum for Utah.We need to elect a governor who has a specific plan and the experience and leadership to implement that plan. I believe you will find I have the experience and desire to execute this plan for Utah. As governor, I will leverage the relationships and experience I have gained from serving in senior positions within the U.S. Department of Commerce, and as a U.S. Trade Ambassador responsible for all U.S. trade relationships with Asia and Africa. These countries represent prime market opportunities for Utah goods and services. I will also bring to bear all of my private sector experience and relationships with national and international business leaders, to attract companies to Utah. I will fight for Utah's interests here and abroad. Rebuilding our economy is the only way to ensure that Utah will have enough jobs and the funding to support our children's futures and increase the quality of their education.
2. What is the one personal trait/characteristic that you want voters to know about you and why is that important in this race?
Some of the best and most innovative ideas come not from the offices with windows but from the associates on the ground level. I am open to new ideas, to new solutions, to new approaches to dealing with our state's problems. I have new eyes and an open mind. No other approach can truly bring a "New Day for Utah."
3. Should you win this office, are you willing to self-limit your time in office? Yes. If yes, how long would you serve in this office?
Utah needs fresh faces and new ideas in government to continue to grow and progress. In the best interest of Utah, each governor should serve a maximum of two four-year terms. I will limit myself to eight years, assuming Utahns will have me, and propose that we legislate term limits for the governor.
4. Do you believe changes are necessary in the state's child welfare system to ensure it does not violate parents' rights?
If the system is out-of-balance and needs some changes, what specifically do you recommend?
Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. Unfortunately, there are certain familial situations requiring government intervention and support. I believe such involvement is justified only when the security of a child is at stake. Restoration of families must be the primary objective in such situations and the removal of a child from their family should only be pursued after all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. I am troubled about the inadequacies and subjectivity of determining at what juncture a child is deemed 'at risk.' I am also concerned that this pivotal decision of 'at risk' is too often blurred by other irrelevant issues involving bureaucratic vindication and institutional pride.
We must do better for our children. And if the system requires reform then Utah families will be the beneficiaries of those initiatives. Family disintegration is placing increasing stress upon our child welfare system. Admittedly, DCFS has a challenging task on the front lines of one of society's most perplexing problems. Burgeoning case loads and scarce resources test even the best of the many dedicated child welfare workers. However, many Utahns fear that DCFS is either unwilling or unable to exercise good judgment in making child welfare decisions. Whether or not that perception is real, the image of DCFS must and will change under my administration.
We must ensure that child safety determinations are made in a consistent and uniform manner according to clearly defined parameters. These decisions must also be made pursuant to due process without the influence of special or personal interests. The welfare of children and preservation of families must be the primary objective of this agency.
In addition, it may be appropriate to review the agency's hiring practices to ensure that highly competent individuals are involved in child safety determinations. I believe DCFS would benefit greatly from recruiting a variety of individuals with not only strong academic qualifications but also with practical and real world experience in supporting and improving our families.
Moreover, appropriately trained senior citizens may be a tremendous resource of volunteer expertise in assisting in child welfare determinations.
I believe that DCFS would also benefit from more community oversight and transparency, especially by those without a financial or professional stake in the child welfare industry. Dozens of organizations have input on child welfare decision-making. Parents and critics alike should have more than a symbolic seat at the table in reviewing DCFS cases, policies, practices and procedures. As Utah's population grows in numbers, complexity and need, DCFS will continue to play a significant, albeit limited, role. It must not, however, exceed its authority and jurisdiction.Parents stand at the forefront in raising and nurturing their children. That role should not be subject to unnecessary scrutiny and intrusion by the state. Where state intervention is absolutely necessary, DCFS should enter the sacred family environment with respect and support. This agency must be seen as a peacemaker and healer, not a forceful intruder.
5. A lawmaker recently proposed eliminating the asset test for children to qualify for Medicaid, allowing 7,000 additional children to get insurance. While the proposal would have cost several million dollars, the idea would be to fund it through a cigarette tax increase. Would you support such a proposal?
Family assets are an important factor. It is inappropriate to disqualify children for Medicaid because the family owns a $3,000 car. I would apply the asset test, but exclude certain minimum threshold for a $3,000-5,000 car. As for funding, we may have dipped into the 'sin tax well' once too often. I am more comfortable at looking at the overall tax structure and size of government and setting spending priorities. We can then focus on funding what citizens want most.
6. Some lawmakers want the state Department of Health to implement a preferred drug list to keep prescription costs down for certain consumers. Would you favor or disfavor a preferred drug list?
No one doubts that prescription drug costs are high, but there are even better ways to obtain cheaper prescription drugs for our state. I support the approach governors in Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska and Nevada have taken. They pool their resources to buy cheaper prescription drugs from manufacturers for those on Medicare. Health and Human Services Director Tommy Thompson has indicated that he feels it is inevitable that importing drugs from Canada will become legal. There are many avenues open to Utahns for cheaper prescription drugs if we join with other states in making our case.
7. As we saw recently, a family had to seek an abortion for a severely deformed fetus (which could not survive outside the womb) from a clinic because her hospital refused to perform the late-term abortion. Local hospitals say they are reluctant to perform abortions because a law passed by the 2004 Legislature restricts public funding for entities that perform abortions. The new law doesn't make allowances for the health of the fetus or the mother. In light of these problems, do you still favor or still oppose the new law? If oppose, how should the law be changed?
I support the objective of the new law that tax dollars not be used to fund elective abortions. While the law was considered for two years and apparently passed without dissent from the medical community, the case cited above merits review of the law. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Bramble, has proposed changes to include abortion for fatal fetal abnormalities, tighter definition on physical health and the involvement of a medical review panel in diagnosing the conditions triggering application of the statute. I believe the proposed amendments appropriately remedy the concerns raised by the current law.
8. Do you favor or oppose the tuition tax credit bill proposed in the 2004 Legislature by Rep. Jim Ferrin? If you would have signed the bill as governor, what specifically will you do to help that bill, or one similar to it, be passed in the 2005 Legislature? If you oppose Ferrin's bill, what is your plan to move forward on the school choice issue?
I support Rep. Ferrin's bill, and I believe in tuition tax credits. I also believe that before implementing Ferrin's bill, we should pass the Carson Smith Special Needs Bill and include broader student categories. This will provide the market test for choice in education. With the information gathered from this test, Rep. Ferrin's bill can be implemented more effectively.
9. How can Utah prepare for 145,000 new public education students entering schools over the next decade? Be specific. Should the Legislature give local school districts more flexibility in assessing their own taxes? Should we just gut out the influx, counting on dropping student numbers in years ahead?
Part 1. Improved education performance and funding are vital to the future of our children and our economy. It is difficult to separate the idea of a world-class education from the goal of a world-class economy each is dependent on the other. I submit that my economic plan will be a boon to education. Its core theme is that the more high quality, long term, high paying companies Utah nurtures, attracts and retains, the larger the tax base from which Utah schools can draw. Education funding and performance are also about setting priorities, which will be the most important in my administration. However, new, creative funding sources must also constantly be sought after.
I believe we should be more aggressive in attracting private dollars to public schools. In Salt Lake City, for example, each school raises about $50,000 each year in additional funding. Clubs, school community councils, PTA groups, businesses and charitable endowments could help in this endeavor. Applying successful higher education fund-raising methods to public education would enhance this effort.
Arizona is a good example of where private sector fund-raising has greatly benefited public education. We must also look constantly at finding greater efficiencies in the administration of education. Utah already has one of the best administrator-to-student ratios in the nation, but I believe more can be done. For example, combine the purchasing power and other non-teaching functions of education while at the same time pushing education decision-making to the very lowest level parents, teachers and principals. We must also ensure that our school trust lands are properly administered and invested so that in the future these lands may provide greater support to our schools. I support the goals of our current trust land managers, which include emphasizing greater mineral development, ensuring receipt of fair market value in sales and leases, and working to exchange lands subject to federal development restrictions with lands that have greater economic potential. Finally, and perhaps most potentially significant, Utah should pursue the APPLE Initiative, which seeks to create a Western states trust fund for public education as compensation for our federally owned lands.
Part 2. In the context of overall tax reform, I believe raising more revenue locally for schools and local government should be considered. Raising taxes locally for schools may raise funding equalization issues. However, I do not support raising taxes overall. Where taxes are increased in one area, they should be lowered in one or more other areas to compensate. I believe that government is best when it governs closest to the people because it is more immediately responsive to shifting or changing community demands for services. It also tends to be more efficient and less wasteful. We should be leaving most decisions, including raising revenue, up to local governments rather than handing down unfunded or under-funded mandates from the state level.Part 3. As mentioned above, I believe we have a number of options.
10. The state gasoline tax has not been raised since 1997, when it went up to help pay for reconstruction of I-15 in Salt Lake County. When tax revenues dropped off in the early 2000s, lawmakers and the former governor took sales tax revenue out of roads and bonded. How do we pay for more road repairs now, including rebuilding I-80 on the east side of Salt Lake County?
I favor restoring full funding to the Centennial Highway Fund. It must fulfill its intended purpose, to prepare for infrastructure growth. We have not kept up in recent years with the growth our transportation infrastructure needs. As governor, I would first commit to allow no diversions in the future, and second, would commit a portion of the general fund and earmark it for transportation projects. We cannot continue to hack, slash and postpone road improvements while bemoaning traffic problems. Roads must be finished as planned and projected. We should also reassess our priorities so we can better direct our road monies. Those areas that are priorities deserve our immediate attention. I will also work with Sen. Bennett, Utah's able and well-positioned representative on the Appropriations Committee. Working with Sen. Bennett, we can more aggressively fund improvements in Utah through federal money.
11. Do you believe the state gasoline tax must be adjusted upwards for inflation during your first term in office?
12. Utah is in its sixth year of drought. Water development is a long-term effort. Specifically, what would you do to conserve water, to develop more fresh water? Should the current state sales tax dedicated to water development be removed, as former governors have suggested, and thus local water districts take on more of the development effort?
We must concentrate on developing our currently untapped resources into usable resources, recycling reusable water (or gray water) for non-potable water uses such recycling efforts will effectively reduce production demands on Utah's water systems and on promoting conservation of water. Such measures will be vital to accommodating future growth. Utah citizens use an average of approximately 321 gallons per person per day. That represents more water per person than any other state in the nation except Nevada, and yet Utahns pay some of the lowest fees for their water lower than the national average and the Western city average with Utah's average at $1.15 per 1,000 gallons. We can ill afford to continue using this precious resource at such high rates, but we also need to recognize where the majority of water in residential areas is used: outdoors.
According to the Utah Foundation, 63 percent of water used by Utah homes is used outdoors, not in. Conserving water is a relatively easy task once Utahns become aware of where and how to save it. Efforts in educating Utah citizens about conservation, such as the "Slow the Flow, Save H2O" campaign, should continue. According to the state of Utah, if we conserve 25 percent per year by 2050, we would save 400,000-acre-feet per year. The state represents that such water savings is more water than the Jordanelle Reservoir could hold or any other water retention project in Utah. For our future needs, we have done a decent job of planning for our state. In some areas, for example, we have excelled. According to a U.S. Geological Survey cited in a recent Utah Foundation Research Report, Utah ranks No. 1 in the nation in the efficiency of our water delivery system. Most communities in Utah have a long range (10 year) plan to address future water demand. I applaud these efforts and the local leaders behind them. Still, we have large amounts of our portion of the Colorado River appropriation that is due to Utah, but currently untapped. As the water flows unused by Utah through to Nevada and California, Utah loses not only water but substantial revenue.
To help begin to remedy the situation, Utah should lease the water to those states until we have the facilities to use the water. Monies obtained from the leasing could be critical in developing the Lake Powell delivery system to Washington County. We cannot afford to give away water for free when we live in a desert! Counties depend upon the money generated by the 1/16th cent sales tax to fund adequate infrastructure. As a Utah County Commissioner, my running mate, Gary Herbert, has had enough experience in this area to know that this money is put to good use by local communities. Too often in the past, the state has looked to this fund, intended for local governments, as a way to pay off budget shortfalls. As governor, I would commit to county governments that these monies would remain sacrosanct. Water development is too important to our quality of life to put on hold.An increase in funding for future water development would be wise. Washington County is looking to spend approximately $300 million dollars by 2020 to bring water from Lake Powell. This money could be more easily obtained by allowing water districts more latitude in setting prices. Current law mandates that water districts cannot make a profit from water, which seems fair. But allowing greater wiggle room for water districts to raise prices in anticipation of future needs (like the Washington County example) would encourage conservation, and let market forces exert greater influence in setting prices. It may also avoid tax increases in the future to fund these needs. Municipalities and individual communities should be responsible for establishing their own unique baseline use rates due to the unique nature of each community. The 1/16th-cent sales tax encourages such an approach.
13. While former governors have been successful in 'trading out' some state lands in wilderness study areas for other federal lands that can be developed, overall the wilderness issue in Utah has been stuck for more than 20 years. What specifically would you do to resolve the ongoing wilderness lands issue in Utah?
Gov. Olene Walker's approach has achieved laudable results. I would continue her approach by continuing to bring all the players to the table. Although the process can be long and arduous, long and arduously attained results are better than the stagnation of the past 20 years.
14. Do you favor or oppose any hazardous or radioactive waste of a higher degree of toxicity being allowed into Utah storage facilities? If yes, specifically what kind of waste could, and should, Utah take?
I strongly oppose any hazardous or radioactive waste of a higher degree of toxicity allowed into Utah storage facilities. We should not only stop B- and C-level waste from entering Utah, but should also tax the current level-A waste at comparable rates to other states.
15. Explain your stand on gay marriage in Utah. Do you favor or oppose hate-crime legislation? If yes, do you favor classifications of victims, and if so do you specifically favor higher penalties for those who attack homosexuals because of their sexual orientation?
16. As it stands now, citizens with concealed weapons permits may legally take their guns into public schools. Do you favor or oppose the current practice?
I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I am a gun owner and have taught my children to shoot. I support the rights of concealed-carry permit holders, especially the right to protect themselves against criminals. The Utah Constitution gives even more clarification than the United States Constitution on gun ownership rights. I strongly support the Utah Constitution's stand on gun ownership, and will defend it fervently. In practice, I oppose taking guns into schools. It just seems out of harmony with what is meant to occur within the walls of our educational facilities. However, banning law abiding, carefully licensed citizens from carrying their guns in schools will do nothing to prevent criminals from taking weapons into schools. Those with concealed weapons permits have passed muster with the state's requirements to maintain the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm. My concern is not with legally licensed, concealed carriers, but with those who illegally obtain, conceal, and use weapons.
17. As governor, would you support or oppose the University of Utah's current practice of controlling who can bring guns onto campus? What, if any, changes should be made to current state law relating to gun ownership and/or use?
The University of Utah has the right to challenge the current law, but not the right to disobey the law while challenging it. The court's rulings should be abided by. The rule of law must be respected, irrespective of what individuals or institutions think the law should be.
18. Utah's seat belt law for adults currently is a secondary offense. You can't be cited for not wearing your seat belt unless you are pulled over by law enforcement on some other moving violation offense and you are not wearing a seat belt. Should Utah have a primary seat belt law, which means if a cop sees you driving by not wearing your belt he can pull you over and cite you?
No. While I appreciate the message that might be sent, I do not see the need for primary enforcement of seat belt laws at this time. I think public awareness concerning seat belt safety for children and adults is strong and should be perpetuated. Most cars on the road today have subtle and not so subtle electronic reminders to put seat belts on. It also seems that traffic safety is better served through enforcing existing laws, such as, speed limits, DUI, reckless driving, obeying traffic signals and stop signs. With traffic laws so routinely violated, it seems we have ample opportunity to emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts through secondary enforcement.
19. Over the four years of your first term, how should Utah's tax structure be changed? What taxes cut? Should some be raised? What tax exemptions removed, changed or given? Is the overall tax structure fair, or is one segment individuals, families with children, businesses paying too much or too little?
I would approach limiting government growth and spending in two ways. First, establish a cap by constitutional amendment or otherwise that limits the amount of revenue the government can take and spend. Government revenues can be capped as a percentage of GDP or personal income or growth limited by the rate of inflation and population growth. The revenue cap should be set forth in a simple and clear manner such that all taxpayers and the government would know what to expect as taxes and revenue respectively. Second, we must settle on what government services are essential in today's world and set spending priorities to meet these needs. By focusing government on what Utahns most want from government and making sure those priorities are adequately funded, making cuts becomes easier. I also support setting up a strategic review commission, similar to President Reagan's "Grace Commission," to review overall state spending and to make recommendations on priorities and the elimination of waste. I believe there could be found millions of dollars of savings to the state budget with this approach.
Through decades of "horse trading," imbalances exist throughout the current system, which is why we need comprehensive review and revision of the tax system. I am concerned that the numerous deductions and exemptions that have crept into our system have operated as tax loopholes in a system that should be fair and impartial. Tax loopholes are subsidized by other taxpayers who support such recipients through higher taxes. The primary objective of a tax system should be aimed at producing the revenue to support necessary government services rather than income redistribution. As we review our tax structure, thought should be given to revising our income tax brackets to reflect the inflation from the time such brackets were first set. Our current bracket structure tends to place a disproportionate burden on lower income taxpayers. We should also give consideration to placing greater emphasis on fees for services used by taxpayers rather than having all taxpayers subsidize government services as the current system primarily does.Comment on this story
Utah's tax structure which has not been significantly modified in thirty years is ripe for review and revision. Currently a legislative task force, as well as, a panel appointed by Gov. Olene Walker and the Tax Commission, are assessing Utah's tax system and will make recommendations later this year. I hope to work with these committees and review their recommendations. I will also work with the Legislature, local government leaders, the business community and others, to determine the direction that we as a state should take on tax reform. I do support the elimination of the sales tax on food but with certain conditions being met first. Sales tax on food is one of the most regressive taxes in our society. It especially hurts seniors on fixed incomes and working families. With the seventh highest tax burden in the nation, we must find effective ways for reducing the tax burden on hard working families.Eliminating the tax on food is the way to start. Eliminating sales tax on food is a matter of setting priorities. It can be done. Here's how: First, schools and local governments need to be held harmless from the tax cut. I will work with a team of mayors, county commissioners and city councils to ensure we do not burden communities with lost tax revenue. Second, the tax should be removed from only staple food items, such as the foods that are covered under the food stamp program. This would represent the most regressive end of a regressive tax and would, therefore, not have the financial impact of eliminating the entire food tax. Simplifying the transition is that most grocery stores already have these types of foods segregated in their computer systems. Most prepared foods, "junk" food items, and the like, would not be exempted. Third, the tax exemption would be phased in over the next four to five years, allowing for adjustment and adaptation by state and local governments. The elimination of the food tax also would be tied to a flow of new revenues from the capture of out of state sales tax from the interstate Streamline Sales Tax agreement. This new revenue flow would help to hold local governments harmless. (This also has the advantage of slowing growth of state government as the new "windfall" of money comes in.) Fourth, as governor I will be reviewing a complete overhaul of our tax system and the tax on food exemption is only one part of that review process. Fifth, we'll help to pay for the exemption like Ronald Reagan did to help pay for his tax cuts look at closing special interest loopholes.
20. The above questions are aimed at finding out where you stand; why primary voters should pick you. Can you give us one (or more) reasons why voters should not pick your primary opponent? For example, does he lack experience, education, vision, does he bring conflicts of interest or is he too closely associated with a minority wing of your party, is he more likely to lose in the final election, etc.?
Utahns are not prone to vote negatively in elections. In other words, Utahns do not select one candidate because they are not as bad as another: Voting is an affirmative choice, not a negative reaction. My campaign is about discussing issues, finding solutions and presenting our positive message about "A New Day for Utah" that a Huntsman-Herbert administration would bring. I have faith in Utahns. They will not base their vote upon distaste for one candidate, but they will vote based upon preference for one candidate's vision, leadership ability and experience.